NY senator tries to up teen driving age

June 2, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A New York senator is floating a controversial proposal that could impact and deeply disappoint teenagers all across the country. The senator wants to change the legal driving age from 16 to 18. This is about more than just safety.

In California, you have to be at least 16 to have a driver's license, but a proposed senate bill could change that. There might be a national standard when it comes to driving, but opponents question if those two years will really make that much of a difference.

It's what most 16 year olds consider their ticket into adulthood -- their driver's license.

"It symbolizes that you are ready to take on responsibility," says 17-year-old Leonardo Lopez.

Senate Bill 3269 could change that. It raises the driving age from 16 to 18.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand sponsored the bill to create a uniform set of driving standards across the country.

Several states differ in terms of age requirements and the amount of time a teenager needs to have a learners permit.

"Teenagers have roughly four-times more accidents than people over 20," says Tony Ribera, Ph.D. from USF.

But that doesn't mean San Francisco's former police chief agrees with the proposed bill. He says these days, driving isn't just a privilege; for many, it's a necessity.

"Many young people are dependent on cars for getting to school for jobs, and for family responsibilities," says Ribera.

"I like to drive here instead of taking the bus which takes me an hour to get here," says Lopez.

Some teenagers don't want the driving age to change, for no reason other than they've waited long enough.

"I don't find it fair. We don't want to wait until we're 18, we just want it now and just drive," says 16-year-old Jose Garcia.

Drivers' training teacher Rosie Avena says it is time for change. She's been teaching the rules of the road for 32 years and backs Senate Bill 3269.

"At 16 they are more aggressive, they want to drive here and there," says Avena. "18 they are more mature and mellow."

The bill is still in its early stages. If the feds do adopt it states would have three years to comply with the new age requirement.

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